Another in what is sure to be a long line of posthumous recordings from the storied career of Ronnie James Dio, "Dio At Donington UK: Live 1983 & 1987" is a terrific performance document from DIO's performances at the Monsters of Rock festivals. Nothing shabby or thrown-together here, the two-disc set exudes all the power and glory of a larger-than-life (figuratively speaking) heavy metal icon at the top of his game, complete with quality recordings and a nice selection of tracks from his work with not only DIO, but also RAINBOW and BLACK SABBATH.The 1983 set has that certain raw excitement and anticipatory energy that comes with debuting not just any new act, but one fronted by a former BLACK SABBATH and RAINBOW vocalist who sang on albums like "Rainbow Rising", "Heaven and Hell", and "Mob Rules". And let's not forget his SABBATH band mate, drummer Vinny Appice, former RAINBOW bassist Jimmy Bain, and a hot young guitarist named Vivian Campbell who quit NWOBHM act SWEET SAVAGE to join the diminutive one. Not surprisingly, the set consists of songs from "Holy Diver", as well as a handful of RAINBOW and BLACK SABBATH tracks, most notably the 11-minute version of "Heaven and Hell", which includes an abbreviated "Long Live Rock 'n' Roll", and the swaggering "Stargazer". The quartet wraps up with an electrifying version of "Man on the Silver Mountain", which morphs into 47 seconds of "Starstruck" and a classic, blues-drenched vocal/guitar call-and-response session between Dio and Campbell before "Man on the Silver Mountain" is reprised to close the show. Great stuff. Touring in support of DIO's fourth full-length studio album, "Dream Evil", the 1987 set comes off as more a hero's return, this time with guitarist Craig Goldy and keyboardist Claude Schnell in tow. Always cognizant of giving the fans what they want, yet ensuring that things never get so predictable as to be boring, songs like BLACK SABBATH's "Neon Knights", "Naked in the Rain", "Rock and Roll Children", and "All the Fools Sailed Away" are joined by shortened (1:28 each to be exact) versions of "Children of the Sea" and "Holy Diver", which together serves as the bridge between "The Last in Line" and an abbreviated "Heaven and Hell". This time it is "The Last in Line" that is reprised before the virtual house is brought down with "Rainbow in the Dark". The presence of Claude Schnell contributes a kind of expansiveness to the performance, probably the most noticeable musical difference between the two discs. Both sets are remastered from the original BBC recordings and are equal in terms of performance bombast and musicianship, while offering a good deal of difference in song selection and versioning. Dante Bonutto's liner notes are brief, but well done, and the inclusion of authentic-looking laminated backstage "passes" for each year's event is a nice touch. If you're a DIO fan, then you better get moving and grab this one. "The cat's meow" comes to mind.
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